Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mother gives birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.
-One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcìa Márquez
The Buendía family is condemned to a hundred years of solitude.
The story takes the reader through the lives of the seven generations of the Buendía family as it explores incestuous relationships and sufferings. Through the dramatic rise and fall of the fictitious town of Macondo, the story recounts coming of the European ideals of development capitalism to Latin America and the effect it has on native ties and people.
Macondo is a town far removed from science and technology. So much so that to the naive inhabitants, things as dull as ice and magnets seem miraculous, and they believe wandering gypsies to be harbingers of progress. It’s only when ‘outsiders’ begin settling in the town that the native populace is exposed to development. The proliferation of science is like magic to this simple town. By the end of the story, Macondo has seen everything: from war and anarchy to dilapidation and emptiness.
One Hundred Years of Solitude is as much about politics and government apathy as it is about human relationships and magic. And in the end, all is revealed in the old, unintelligible manuscript that José Arcadio Márquez’s friend Melquíades the gypsy wrote a hundred years ago…
In a word, it’s magnetic. One Hundred Years of Solitude whisks you away to a far off fantasy land where extraordinary is ordinary. The reality that this book attempts to create is anything but real, and that makes it all the more enchanting.
In the veiled land of Macondo, it isn’t unusual to see one’s dead ancestors lurking around. It isn’t odd for a man to give his 17 sons from 17 different women the same name. Macondo is where it’s unsurprising to be alive for a century and a half. And it is where priests levitate to prove the existence of god. The simplicity of the story is so unreal that it leaves the reader gasping for more.
The realism that Márquez weaves into his fiction is hard to resist: One Hundred Years of Solitude is poetic. If you read closely, it will sing to you.
There’s very little dialogue; the characters hardly speak with each other. The story doesn’t stay with any one character long enough for the reader to be fully acquainted with it. Lack of conversation among characters makes it tough for the reader to get into the characters’ heads and decipher their psychology. That makes the reader feel like an outlander, not an integral fragment of the story.
This isn’t much of a downside, but the long and twisted sentences make it a demanding read. It is by no means an easy book, and requires great attention.
Despite its limitations, One Hundred Years of Solitude is charming. For me, it was challenging and very different from anything that I’ve read so far. Magic-realism may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was definitely worth my effort and time. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s willing to go beyond convention.
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